Summary of Hansom Cab outside Liberty's, London
A photograph of a Hansom Cab outside the Liberty's department store in London.
The first Hansom cab was designed in 1834 by Joseph Hansom of York, but it had little in common with the highly successful and long-lasting design that appeared two years later. Hansoms, the “gondolas of London”, immediately conjure up images of traffic-packed, smog-filled Victorian London, and Sherlock Holmes. They competed for trade with four-wheeled cabs, which were regarded as safe and respectable, whereas hansoms had a racy and disreputable image. A middle class lady would never travel alone in a hansom. The cabman drove from a high seat behind the body, from which he had a good view of the traffic, and hansoms were more manoeuvrable, and therefore faster, than the four-wheelers in the ever more congested city streets. There is a roof hatch for passengers to communicate with the cabman and to pass their fare to him, and a handle with which he could open the doors when he had received it. His position behind the body also helps to balance the carriage. Without him there the carriage is front-heavy and the load would be transferred through the shafts onto the horse. The steps are mounted on gravel irons which support the cab when the horse is taken out.
A well maintained Hansom Cab waits outside the popular department store Liberty's. As with the majority of Hansom Cabs, when they did not have passengers the balance of the vehicle was incorrect and the shafts would sit high in the tugs with the belly band becoming tight.